Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Opting out

Over the past few months I’ve been troubled and saddened by the actions of a friend. She hasn’t done anything to me, but she has left our church, moved towns and moved into a live-in relationship with her boyfriend. To people who are non-Christians, this may seem like a very normal occurrence, nothing to worry about. To those of us who are committed Christians and know the Bible, we see things from a very different perspective.
My friend was not a young woman and had experienced considerable pain in the area of romantic relationships prior to this one. She appeared to be really dedicated in her faith, knowledge of scripture and involvement in church life. She was involved in ministry to others.  Yet she had a longing to be involved in a romantic relationship. I probably wasn’t the only one of her friends who cautioned her to consider what she was doing.  
I write this with no sense of smugness. I feel deeply grieved in this case not only for the person concerned, but because I know this is not an unfamiliar scenario in churches. More and more the church is capitulating to the world’s standards, instead of being the standard bearer. People adopt other lifestyles at the expense of their faith. Marriages that you thought were rock solid fall apart. We wonder, if my faith was tested, would I fail ? Would I give in to temptation? Would I know how to resist? Are there Christian friends that I could turn to, talk to, be honest with?
The whole realm of sexuality touches such deep human emotions that it is an area which drags so many people, within the church and beyond it, into seemingly attractive relationships that lead to misery and destruction. Our western culture is so completely saturated with sexual messages that promote lifestyles contrary to what God has laid down as the foundation for happiness in the Bible – one man, one woman, committed for life in a marriage relationship. Celibacy is no longer promoted as a viable option, nor is there much validation for those who through choice or circumstances remain single throughout their lives.  Restrictions on sexual “freedom” have been cited as one of the main barriers for young people committing their lives to Christ.
You can’t expect people who don’t know God’s standards to apply them. When it comes to people in the church, however, there should be an understanding of what God teaches, and why. Christians must consider what they believe, and why, in relation to a number of social issues which impact on Christian witness to the world:
Is it alright for couples to live together before marriage?
Should the church accept homosexual relationships and marriage?
Should the church accept divorce? Can divorced people remarry ?
What is meant by promiscuity? Adultery? Fornication? Faithfulness?
And what is meant by true love? Does it ever involve sacrifice of one’s self including one’s desires? Shouldn’t love forgo pleasure that leads to pain? Shouldn’t love consider the other person’s standing with God, even at the expense of a personal relationship?
I don’t know what will happen to my friend’s earthly relationships, but I do hope that she will find afresh a deep and lasting dependency on God and know the reality of His love that yearns to be utmost in her life.  May He bless and keep her and draw her to Himself. 

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